Islam in Latvia

Vol 4-Issue 1 Islam in latviaRiga, Brivibas Street 104 – the only mosque in Latvia. Actually, not a mosque in the traditional sense – just an apartment adapted for the needs of a mosque. Islam is an unwelcomed stranger in Latvia – often misunderstood and not very much liked.

I felt good in the mosque, listening to the Khutbah in Russian by Imam Mamoon, a tall Sudanese, who serves the needs of Muslims in the capital. Didn’t meet any Latvian speaking woman but received warm welcome from the Tatar and Russian ladies, who invited me to partake in a modest meal as soon as I entered. I was later told that also Latvian girls do come to the mosque – mostly married to Muslim foreigners. On the men’s side, however, I heard voices speaking Russian, Latvian, and English.

Muslim, therefore unwanted – such intolerant view is wide spread in the Latvian society, as nearly half of the population (45% of Latvians and 41% of minorities) admit that they would not wish to see Muslims as their neighbors. This harsh judgment is shaped partly by the history of this country and partly by the global events of the last decade.

The first presence of Muslims in Latvia was registered in 1838, although the first official congregation was formed much later – in 1902. Ever since the beginnings, Muslim congregations have had close ties with Tatar, Uzbek and Azerbaijan minorities’ organizations, because the culture of these nations was historically based in Islam. Thus, this ethnic and religious difference automatically labeled Muslims as ‘the others’ in the broader mostly Christian scene of Latvia.

The historic injustice of the Soviet Occupation after the Second World War added to the dislike towards Muslims. Fifty years long Soviet period brought to Latvia a large influx of unwelcomed immigrants from the Asian republics. Feeling the pressure on the national identity, the locals developed a reasonable aversion towards the immigrants.

9/11 changed the whole world – Latvia was not an exception. Such juicy epithets as ‘Islamic terrorists,’ ‘Islamic radicals,’ and ‘Islamic extremists’ flooded the media and resulted in associating with Islam nearly every possible kind of atrocities. If Islam was in the news, it meant explosions or suicide bombers. The good news, however, is that in all the years Muslims reside in Latvia, no act of violence has been registered on their account.

Since Latvia joined the European Union, a new phobia has surfaced – the fear of repeated immigration floods, which could pose a serious threat to this small nation of only 2.4 million. Thus, anything ‘unusual’ has come to mean also ‘unwanted.’

However, despite the not so favorable setting in Latvia, the Muslim community is continuing to expand. Currently, the estimated numbers of Muslims in the country range from five to ten thousands. Seven existing Muslim congregations (five in the capital and two in other smaller cities) are united under the Latvian Muslim Organizations Association. In the recent years, Muslims have been working on obtaining the permission to build the first purpose-built mosque in Latvia. The translation of the Quran from Arabic into Latvian also is on the way.

Looking at the general scene of Islam in today’s Latvia, I am happy to see young, eager minds, who are ready to prove to the quite prejudiced locals that Islam is also for Latvians. As happy I am to see that the new generation of locals is more open to diversity than their parents used to be. May Allah (swt) bless this nation with the light of Islam, Ameen.

Travel Qatar

To license this image contact: Lonely Planet Images email: lpi@lonelyplanet.com.au phone: 61 3 8379 8181Explore the natural environment, take an exciting desert safari, relax at the many beaches and pool facilities, or enjoy your favorite sport. Whatever your interest, there is something for everyone.

Doha

Just like other cities in the Persian Gulf Region, Doha is an intriguing mixture of old and new. You’ll find fine modern architecture next to the traditional Arabic Soukhs (Bazaars) and more than 260 mosques, with the multiple-domed Grande Mosque being the largest. The traditional Dhow harbor is a favored attraction.

Historically, Doha was founded as Al Bida in 1850. The Al Wajbah fort is in the southwestern part of the city and was built by Al Rayyan in 1882. This fort witnessed the famous battle, in which the people of Qatar, led by Sheikh Qassim, beat the Ottomans in 1893. The Al Kout fort was built in 1917 by Sheikh Abdulla Bin Qassim Al Thani and lies in the center of the city. In 1949, the city began exporting oil. The House of Government opened in 1969 and is considered to be one of the nation’s most prominent landmarks. In 1971, it became the capital of an independent Qatar.

Education City

Education City is a major educational and cultural development in Qatar, housing some of the world’s finest academic institutions on a 7-million square-meters site. It positions Doha as a key centre for the advancement of the people of Qatar and other Gulf states. Scheduled for completion in 2008, Education City is already flourishing and providing world-class educational facilities from kindergarten through junior and secondary levels, to internationally recognized graduate and post-graduate studies and research programs.

Education City will include world-class facilities for business, community development, science, information technology, Islamic studies, media and communications, sports, as well as a 350-bed teaching hospital.

Media

The launch of Al-Jazeera TV in 1997 raised the profile of Qatari television. The station is outspoken on issues traditionally deemed as sensitive in the Arab world. Al-Jazeera, already popular in the Arab world, became known worldwide after becoming the only channel allowed to operate from Afghanistan. It plans to launch an English-language network, Al Jazeera International. Qatar formally lifted censorship of the media in 1995, and since then the press has been essentially free from government interference.

Sightseeing

National Museum

The National Museum consists of ten buildings, which contain one of the Gulf’s largest collections of ecological, ethnographic, and archaeological material. Five rooms are dedicated to the display of traditional Bedouin lifestyle with examples of costumes, arts and crafts, utensils, and tools. The museum’s main collection explores the country’s physical geography, geology, and architectural finds.

The marine section contains an underground aquarium, which houses a wide variety of fish, coral, and shells. This section also tells the story of Qatar’s traditional boat-building methods, as well as pearl-diving and fishing industry, which were an important part of the country’s economy before the discovery of oil.

Cruises and Water Sports

Sailing is a wonderful pastime and several private companies offer dinghies and windsurfers for rent, as well as sailing lessons for both novice and experienced sailors. A sunset cruise on a traditional dhow in Doha Bay provides a stunning view of Doha at night, while luxury yachts can be rented for half- and full-day fishing trips. There are both jet-skiing and water-skiing rentals, as well as pedal boats, water cycle, and Kayak. And for the extremely adventurous: parasailing, surfing, or wind-surfing.

Golfing

For the enthusiastic golfer, a visit to the Doha Golf Club is an absolute must. This 18-hole, 7,181-yard, par 72 championship course was designed by Peter Harradine and has hosted major international golfing championships.

Desert Safari

A trip to the inland sea in the middle of the desert is a splendid way to spend the day. Experienced tour operators add to the adventure by expertly steering their four-wheel drive vehicles up and down 60-metre sand dunes. As you travel over the sand dunes, take in the view of the desert and listen closely to the sands shift, as you descend down the slopes.

Conclusively, Qatar has aggressive plans of progress and development in trade, tourism, education, and state of the art infrastructure. It is a highly recommended destination for holidays. When you plan your next vacation, check it out for yourself!

Just how Harmful is Anger to one’s Health?

By Uzma Jawed

It’s extremely hot, the car’s air-condition isn’t working, and you are stuck in traffic. The traffic slowly starts moving, but for some reason the car in front of you doesn’t. You slowly feel the tension build up, and you start honking and screaming at the car in front of you. Later, when you walk across a busy street, someone bumps into you accidentally, and you start screaming and pushing that person.

We all face situations like this. Everyone feels angry at times due to life stresses, such as financial problems, marital problems, health problems, etc. For some, if anger occurs too frequently, lasts too long or intensifies, it can affect them physically, mentally, spiritually, and psychologically.

Anger is a powerful emotion, and a myriad of research shows that it can have disparaging results on human health. It can impair our cardiovascular system, have an impact on our immune system, brain, weight, and even cause skin and hair problems.

Cardiovascular system

In his book “Forgive for Good,” Dr. Frederic Luskin says that certain enzymes are released during anger and stress, which causes cholesterol and blood pressure levels to go up. Sue Meyers, a family sociologist, explains in her article that anger triggers the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response. This causes the adrenal glands to release stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. The brain then diverts the blood away from the gut towards the major muscle groups. This causes heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration to increase. Furthermore, at times of anger, pulse rate rises above its normal level leading to higher blood pressure in the arteries, hence, causing a greater chance of a heart attack.

An article called “Anger is Hostile to Your Heart,” published in the Harvard Gazette, further proved that irritable old men had three times the risk of heart disease than their more steady peers. Moreover, the journal Psychosomatic Medicine suggested that anger and hostility can provoke the creation of inflammatory proteins, which may, in turn, cause the hardening of the arteries, causing heart disease and stroke.

Scientists of the John Hopkins University at Baltimore have also found that short-tempered men have a higher risk of heart attack, even if there is no family history of health problem.

Immune system

Our immune system also becomes more vulnerable at times of stress, since the rush of cortisol overpowers the white blood cells and makes them less responsive to pathogens, hence, increasing chances of bacterial and viral infections. Researchers at the Ohio State University College of Medicine state that chronic stress delays wound healing from 24% to 40%.

Weight

When cortisol and insulin escalate during periods of stress, so does our desire for food. We crave more carbohydrates and sugary foods, as they temporarily reduce the stress levels. As the levels of cortisol remain high even when stress levels go down, we tend to keep eating, even if we are not hungry. As a result – we get fat.

Skin / Hair

The article “Distress Signals” in the Weekend also mentions that anger and stress can release hormones that fuel the overproduction of the sebaceous gland. This can result in hair loss as well as dull and lifeless hair. The oiliness produced by these glands can also block pores, hence, causing pimples and acne.

Psychological symptoms

Some psychological and behavioral symptoms that have also been correlated to anger include: panic attacks, reactive depression, confusion, tearfulness, irritability, and obsession. These are the results of an imbalance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Hence, if a person does not identify the root of his anger for controlling or redirecting it, he can cause great damage to himself and others around him.

Medicine for Anger

Avoid being too sensitive to provocation. Divert yourself.

“Speak, when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” This quote by Ambrose Bierce shows us the advantages of controlling our anger and temper, and redirecting our mind from upsetting feelings. In this way, we can have peace of mind instead of a conflict. An effective method, which Prophet Muhammad (sa) once taught a man, was to take a sip of water and not swallow it, while he was angry with his wife. A couple of months later, the man came back to the Prophet (sa) and told him that it had worked.

We should be quick to listen and slow to speak. As we have two ears and one mouth, we should use them proportionally.

If you feel out of control, walk away from the situation, until you cool down.

Try to identify the problem and think of possible strategies to solve the situation.

Use relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or reading a book.

Do regular exercise, as this will help increase your tolerance level.

Inspiration from the Quran 

It has also been revealed in the Quran that forgiveness is a superior moral trait: “And verily, whosoever shows patience and forgives, that would tryly be from the things recommended by Allah.” (Ash-Shura 42:43)

For that reason, believers are forgiving, compassionate, and tolerant people “who repress anger, and who pardon men.” (Al-Imran 3:134)

“Let them pardon and forgive. Do you not love that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (An-Nur 24:22)

“The recompense for an evil is an evil like thereof; but whoever forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is with Allah.” (Ash-Shura 42:40)

“But if you pardon (them) and overlook, and forgive (their faults), then verily Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (At-Taghabun 64: 14)

One of the divine attributes of Allah (swt) is patience. The Quran says: “…and be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are As-Sabirun (the patient).” (Al-Anfal 8:46)

Sabr in Arabic has a richer meaning than the word patience. It means to stop oneself from despairing and panicking. Additionally, it means to stop one’s tongue from complaining and controlling one’s rage in times of stress. As Javed Mohammad, the author of “Riding the Roller Coaster,” elaborates, it encompasses holding back, as well as moving forward with courage and perseverance.

Conclusively anger is detrimental to a person’s physical health as well as spiritual being. The myth of ‘letting out the steam’ is just that – a myth. It has never helped anyone stay in good shape and acquire a positive frame of mind. So just get rid of those angry thoughts that instigate negative reactions. There is so much more to do than waste precious moments of life!

Taking the Bully by the Horns

Vol 4-Issue 1 Taking the bully by the HornsA bully is someone, who uses his strength to intimidate others.

There are many situations that parents dread, one of which is discovering that their child is/was the victim of bullying. Bullies can be not just other children but also a child’s supposed friends or even teachers.

What should you do as a parent of a bullied child?

The most important step a parent can take is to reassure the child that it is not his fault. Teach your child to be proud of any differences in himself that he may be conscious of. Clarify that many of the world’s successful people did not get where they are by being the same as everyone else.

A natural parent’s initial reaction is that of anger and wants to confront the bully, or to approach the parents of the bully. This could create more problems for your child and yourself. If the bully is aggravated, it may fuel his or her intent for further harming your child. If the bully comes from a violent home, you too could find yourself on the receiving end of some unwanted harassment. Let the school take the responsibility of contacting the parent(s) of the bully.

Assess the seriousness of the situation. Sometimes, a harmless tiff can be blown out of proportion. Before you know it, the children are friends again, when you and the other parents are still at war.

Inform your child’s school, but first ask your child, whether she would prefer to speak to a tutor or the principal. If necessary, ask the school to protect your anonymity. Sometimes, the best way to expose a bully is for the teachers to catch him or her red-handed.

Find out what the school’s current bullying policy is and how the school intends to monitor the situation.

Teach your child strategies for dealing with the bullying. Tell your child to stay in a group when at all possible, and to let you know exactly, where he is going and with whom. Enroll him in a self-defense class, not as a method of harming the bully, but as a means of defending himself. If the bullying is verbal, tell your child to confront the bully by saying: “Please don’t call me that again. It’s cruel and hurtful.”

Encourage your child to feel comfortable talking to you, a teacher, or a counselor and to report every incident of bullying confidently.

Ask your child to keep a dated diary of events to share with you. On your own side, make your own record of incidents, including any mood swings or emotional and physical effects that you notice in your child, as they may be attributed to bullying.

How can schools take ownership?

Schools that are committed to implementing comprehensive bullying prevention programs should take the following steps:

  • Establish a committee for developing the school’s bullying policy and coordinating bullying prevention activities.
  • Survey students about bullying.
  • Establish a clear policy prohibiting bullying and then communicate that policy to students, staff, and parents.
  • Provide close and adequate supervision of areas, where bullying is likely to occur, such as: outside the classroom, in the hallway, at the bus stop, on the playground, in the cafeteria, and bathrooms.
  • School personnel need training on recognizing the signs of bullying, knowing what to do, when incidents happen, and learning, how to prevent bullying.
  • School-wide anti-bullying activities help remind students about school policy regarding bullying and the importance of supporting their classmates. In addition, they help generate energy for the program.
  • Integrate bullying lessons and activities into the classroom curriculum. This might include conducting a lesson about bullying, asking students to read a book about bullying, which can be followed up with a classroom discussion, or having a classroom meeting focused on the issue of bullying.
  • Empower bystanders to support the victims of bullying. Although school staff members often are unaware that bullying is taking place, typically, other students are not only aware of it but are present, when the incidents occur. Bystanders to bullying can play a crucial role in helping to address the problem.
  • Involve parents in the program. Parents need to be informed about the school’s policies regarding bullying, and they need to be encouraged to reinforce that policy with their children. Schools also might survey parents to elicit their views and knowledge about bullying in school. Parents also need to be informed, if their child has bullied, or has been bullied by another child.
  • Pay special attention to students, who are at risk. Students are more likely to be bullied, if they’re isolated from their classmates, in special education programs, have a physical characteristic that makes them stand out from their peers, or are new to the school.
  • Take reports of bullying seriously and act quickly. Encourage staff to respond to all reports of bullying that come to their attention. An incident that might appear minor to a teacher can loom large in the life of a student.

Can I Trust You?

In this article, the third in a series of articles on work ethics, Sumaira Dada discusses the importance of honesty in the workplace

A Pakistani bank executive wrote about his experience of the Far East work ethics. He noticed, how there people slogged at work, finished assignments within office hours and left work at 5 pm. In Pakistan, however, he was used to tea breaks, friendly chit chats, and long hours at the office. And at the end of the day, the amount of work done was much less compared to the number of work hours. Are you wondering about the reason for such inefficiency?

Take another case: a textile company has shipment deadlines to meet for its foreign client. Cutting corners, the company purchases low quality material, but manages to deliver on time. The consignment is rejected for not meeting specifications, and both the company and the country earn a bad name. Sound familiar?

Why is it that talk about honesty and trustworthiness are disdained? Let’s look at what Allah (swt) and the Prophet (sa) have to say about it.

Allah (swt) says: “Verily, Allah commands that you should render back the trusts to those, to whom they are due.” (An-Nisa 4:58)

“O you who believe! Betray not Allah and His Messenger, nor betray knowingly your Amanat (things entrusted to you, and all the duties which Allah has ordained for you).” (Al-Anfal 8:27)

Prophet (sa) says:

Anas bin Malik (rta) narrated: “Allah’s Messenger (sa) addressed us and said in his sermon: ‘He has no Iman, who is not trustworthy, and he has no Deen, who does not keep promises.’” (Ibn Hibban)

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “The signs of a hypocrite are three: whenever he speaks, he tells a lie; and whenever he promises, he breaks his promise; and whenever he is entrusted, he betrays (proves to be dishonest).’” (Bukhari)

Abu Hurairah (rta) narrated: “Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: ‘Return the trust to one, who has entrusted you, and do not be treacherous to one, who was treacherous to you.’” (Abu Dawood)

Safeguarding your trust is important

It is clear that in the light of the Quran and the Ahadeeth, one cannot afford to slack about building up honesty and trustworthiness in oneself. First, we must understand the meaning of trust (Amanah).

What is Trust (Amanah)?

A simple definition is that every entrusted thing is an Amanah. This covers not only office duties, but also office hours, your skills and abilities, your clients, and even your own health – physical and spiritual.

The opposite of Amanah is Khiyanah, which means lessening or decreasing, in short, betrayal.

Does honesty pay off?

Most people would consider honesty as being another word for stupidity. But research shows that honesty does pay off. A study of the US market found that the three-year total return to shareholders was almost three times higher at companies with high trust levels. However, most employees did believe that trustworthiness in the workplace has seriously declined. In one study, more than half of those polled said that they considered hypocrisy as the biggest problem in corporate America today, and that the upper levels of management are to blame.

Although facts and figures have their importance, yet risking Allah’s (swt) dislike is really not worth it. Allah (swt) says in the Quran: “Certainly Allah likes not the treacherous.” (Al-Anfal 8:58)

Is being trustworthy an unachievable goal?

If Allah (swt) and the Prophet (sa) have emphasized the importance of trustworthiness, then it is an achievable goal. In Muslim history, we will find the example of Umar Bin Abdul Aziz, the celebrated Umayyad Caliph, whose empire stretched from the shores of the Atlantic to the highlands of Pamir. His short rule is regarded as the brightest period in the 91-year Caliphate of the Umayyads. He was once sitting in his private chamber, examining a pile of state documents. When his wife sought to discuss a private matter with him, he asked her to put off the state lamp and put on their own lamp, as he did not want to burn the state oil for private purposes! According to “Tabaqat Ibni Sa’ad”, Umar bin Abdul Aziz never performed his private work in the light of a lamp, which burned the state oil.

Another incident also shows the utter honesty of the Caliph. Every Friday, Farat Bin Muslama brought state papers for his perusal and orders. One Friday, the Caliph brought a small piece of state paper in his private use. Muslama, who was aware of the exceptional honesty of the Caliph, thought that he had done it out of sheer forgetfulness. But the following Friday, when he brought back home the state papers, he found in them exactly the same size paper as used by the Caliph.

Once the Caliph’s servant burnt the firewood in the guest house (funded by the state treasury) to heat water for ablution. He had the same quantity of firewood deposited in its place. On another occasion, he refused to use the water heated from the state charcoal. Skeptics might frown at these incidents as being fictitious; nevertheless, they are facts on the deeds of our pious predecessors, enough to bring us to shame.

How do I become trustworthy?

The following tips might be helpful:

  • Remind yourself that Allah (swt) does not love those who betray (Al-Anfal 8:58). Keep constant reminders that you will be questioned about whatever you are entrusted with.
  • Make prayer for help from Allah (swt). Read the Quran regularly and study Ahadeeth to develop trustworthiness. We learn from the following Hadeeth:
  • Hudhaifah (rta) has narrated: “Allah’s Messenger (sa) said to us: ‘Certainly, Al-Amanah descended from the heavens and settled in the roots of the hearts of men (faithful believers), and then the Quran was revealed, and the people read the Quran, and also learnt it from the Sunnah.’” (Bukhari)
  • Realistically assess, whether you are able to handle the task given to you. Discuss your apprehensions with your supervisor.
  • Don’t be afraid to say ‘no,’ when you feel that you cannot realistically meet a deadline.